If you’re after eternal life, you better start searching for the philosopher’s stone because science says we’ve hit our natural limit. New research led by Dutch statisticians backs up previous research that puts the maximum human lifespan at 115 years.
Professor John Einmahl of the Department of Econometrics at Tilburg University and colleagues collected data from 75,000 Dutch people who died sometime over the past 30 years. Now they think they’ve found the ceiling for human lifespan – 115.7 years for women and (sorry, guys) 114.1 years for men.
“On average, people live longer, but the very oldest among us have not gotten older over the last thirty years,” Einmahl told AFP. “Nevertheless, the maximum ceiling itself hasn’t changed.”
If these numbers sound familiar, it might be because researchers in America came to a similar conclusion last year. That study concluded that, bar very few anomalies, maximum lifespan reached a plateau in the nineties, and that the ripe old age of 115 is as high as it will ever go.
“Demographers, as well as biologists, have contended there is no reason to think that the ongoing increase in maximum lifespan will end soon,” senior author of that study, Jan Vijg, said last year. “But our data strongly suggest that it has already been attained and that this happened in the 1990s.”
He later told the BBC you’d have to travel a long, long way to find an exception to the rule. “It’s almost impossible you’ll get beyond [115 years]. You need 10,000 worlds like ours to end up with one individual in a given year who will live until 125 – so a very small chance.”
This research was met with a surprising amount of vitriol. Five papers were published in Nature criticizing the study.
“It’s the worst piece of research I’ve ever read in Nature magazine,” Jim Vaupel, a specialist in aging at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany, said of the study. “I was outraged that a journal I highly respect would publish such a travesty.”
“The evidence points towards no looming limit. At present, the balance of the evidence suggests that if there is a limit it is above 120, perhaps much above – and perhaps there is not a limit at all.”
So we’ll have to see if this new piece of research settles things – or if the debate over maximum lifespan will continue. But one thing scientists can agree on is that thanks to improvements in nutrition, lifestyle, and medicine, average human lifespan across the world is on the up.